Hammel dominates as Cubs win 9th straight, 3-1 over Angels
CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Cubs are dominating on the mound, making sparkling plays in the field and coming through with big hits at the plate.
There is not much to criticize when a team is rolling along like this.
Jason Hammel won his career-best fifth straight start, pitching four-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, and Chicago beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 on Wednesday night for their season-high ninth straight win.
The major league-leading Cubs matched their longest streak since Aug. 6-15 of last year and moved a season-best 30 games over .500 (71-41). They come into a four-game set against St. Louis at Wrigley Field with three straight series sweeps after consecutive victories over the Angels.
Hammel (12-5) struck out six, walked two and helped himself at the plate when he singled and scored in the fifth against Ricky Nolasco to make it 2-0.
Addison Russell made it 3-1 with a solo homer off JC Ramirez in the eighth.
Dexter Fowler chipped in with two hits, including an RBI double. Anthony Rizzo drove in a run with a single, and the Cubs made several neat plays in the field on the way to their 12th win in 13 games.
''I've never been on a team this good before,'' Hammel said. ''It's kind of silly to go out and watch the guys, how consistent they are. You know something good's going to happen.''
One sour note for the Cubs. They lost reliever Pedro Strop to a left knee injury late in the game.
The Angels, last in the AL West, matched a season high with their sixth straight loss. And with their next four games at AL Central leader Cleveland, the schedule doesn't get much easier.
Nolasco (4-9) was a tough-luck loser, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked one in his second start since the Angels acquired him in a trade from Minnesota on Aug. 1.
''They're right at the top with anybody,'' Nolasco said. ''They're a good team. Obviously there are no breaks in there and they've got some pretty good guys at the top of the order. Anytime you've got Kris Bryant hitting second, it shows you a lot right there what kind of lineup they've got.''
Strop came on in the eighth for Chicago and had to be helped off the field when he tried to make a play on Yunel Escobar's leadoff tapper down the third base line. Strop slid in front of third baseman Javier Baez and his left leg appeared to bend awkwardly.
He is scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
Travis Wood then gave up a double to Kole Calhoun, putting runners on second and third. Albert Pujols drove in a run with a sharp grounder to second after Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Mike Trout, and Andrelton Simmons grounded out to shortstop to end the rally.
Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save in five chances since the Cubs got him in a trade with the New York Yankees last month.
''We're getting great starting pitching,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''We're getting timely hitting and extraordinary defense. That's a nice formula to win at any level.''
LA STELLA UPDATE
Maddon said he had no update on INF Tommy La Stella, who has refused to report to Triple-A Iowa after being optioned to the minors nearly two weeks ago. La Stella, who was placed on the temporary inactive list Tuesday, told ESPN.com that he's contemplating retirement and doesn't want to play for another team.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards, out for the season with a torn elbow ligament, was in good spirits after a pregame workout. He's scheduled to have an imaging test Monday to determine if he can start playing catch. Richards is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery. ''I feel zero discomfort in my arm,'' he said.
Cubs: Reliever Hector Rondon (triceps) remained sidelined, Maddon expects him to be available in a few days.
Angels: RHP Jhoulys Chacin (3-7, 5.27 ERA) makes his first start since July 1 as Los Angeles takes on RHP Corey Kluber (11-8, 3.22) and the Indians.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93) tries to win his third straight start and keep the Cubs' win streak going against RHP Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.29) and the Cardinals.